Ministers say £3bn Channel migrant crackdown can 'get a grip'
Can Rishi’s Channel migrant crackdown work? Ministers say ‘£3bn’ scheme with LIFE ban on illegal arrivals re-entering Britain can ‘get a grip’ on crisis – but Tories fear Sunak has ‘over-promised’
- Plan to impose indefinite re-entry bans on migrants arriving by ‘irregular routes’
- Ministers hope scheme will send a strong message and deter illegal migrants
Ministers today insisted Rishi Sunak’s plans can ‘get a grip’ on the Channel migrant crisis despite Tories voicing fears he has ‘over-promised’.
Science Secretary Michelle Donelan said the government’s proposals – due to be unveiled officially tomorrow with a price tag of around £3billion – were ‘common sense’.
The tough new measures will impose indefinite re-entry bans on all migrants who arrive in this country by ‘irregular routes’, such as by small boat.
Anyone caught coming to Britain by illegal routes would also face a lifetime ban on securing the right to settle permanently in the UK, or winning British citizenship.
Ministers hope it will send a strong message and deter migrants from crossing the Channel illegally. Some 45,000 made the perilous journey last year, and Mr Sunak has made ‘stopping the boats’ one of his key pledges before the next election.
However, the PM is facing a backlash with immigration unions already branding the ideas ‘unworkable’ and Labour confirming it will oppose them. Conservative MPs are also anxious, warning that ‘political signalling’ will not be enough and the public must see concrete results.
The tough new measures will impose indefinite re-entry bans on all migrants who arrive in this country by ‘irregular routes’, such as by small boat. Ministers hope it will send a strong message and deter migrants from crossing the Channel illegally
The tough new measures will impose indefinite re-entry bans on all migrants who arrive in this country by ‘irregular routes’, such as by small boat
Science Secretary Michelle Donelan said the government’s proposals – due to be unveiled officially tomorrow with a price tag of around £3billion – were ‘common sense’
The Illegal Migration Bill, to be unveiled tomorrow, is also expected to set out further measures restricting the right to claim asylum and making it easier for the Home Office to remove irregular migrants.
Ms Donelan told BBC Breakfast: ‘This week we will be bringing forward additional legislation, which is based on the principle that if people travel here via illegal routes they shouldn’t be allowed to stay, which I think is common sense and right and the correct approach.’
She argued that many people crossing the Channel have previously ‘travelled through a number of safe countries’ or do not need to claim asylum.
‘Those boats are not filled with people coming from countries that desperately need help. Many times they’re filled with people that are actually economic migrants and also been exploited by criminal gangs who take their money on a very perilous journey.’
The minister said the Government ‘will be opening up more safe routes’ for asylum seekers, but failed to name any when pressed repeatedly.
There are worries on the government benches that ministers have yet to secure anywhere that migrants can be sent – which could be a major flaw in the approach.
Lucy Moreton, of the Immigration Services Union, which represents Border Force staff, voiced concerns that the new law will actually increase the number of crossings.
Asked whether the plans would halt the crossings, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Not as things stand at the moment. In fact, it’s actually going to be the converse when these things are published and announced in this way.
‘What it actually does is fuel the service, if you like, that the criminals provide.’
The gangs will tell people ‘quick, cross now before anything changes’, she added.
Tory MP Danny Kruger said that Rishi Sunak’s plan to tackle Channel crossings would be ‘serious’.
‘Political signalling isn’t going to work,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour.
‘The problem is we’ve been talking about this for years now. The only thing that will convince the public that we’re serious is actually gripping the problem and reducing the crossings.
‘So this has to work and I pay tribute to the government because they’ve taken a while to get this right.’
He warned that the Government needs to avoid the same kinds of legal challenges that have blighted the Rwanda scheme.
New laws will also restrict Channel migrants from using human rights laws to avoid removal from Britain, it is understood. The Bill is likely to severely limit the way claims under Labour’s Human Rights Act can be used by asylum seekers who arrive by irregular routes
Another Conservative MP told the Idependent they were worried that Mr Sunak has ‘over-promised’.
Keir Starmer suggesting the timing of the announcement was timed for May’s local elections.
‘We had a plan last year which was put up in lights – ‘It’s going to be an election winner’. These bits of legislation always seem to come when we’ve got a local election coming up,’ he told LBC Radio.
‘It was going to break the gangs – it didn’t. Now we’ve got the next bit of legislation with almost the same billing. I don’t think that putting forward unworkable proposals is going to get us very far.’
Sir Keir suggested putting money into the National Crime Agency to ‘break the gangs who are running this because, until we break them, I think it’s going to be very, very hard to actually deal with what is a very real problem, which is people crossing the Channel in the way that they are’.
Asked if the plan is legally feasible, he said: ‘I don’t know that it is and I think we’ve got to be very careful with international law here.’
A government source told the Daily Mail: ‘This new Bill, if passed by Parliament, will mean that if you come here illegally, not only will you be swiftly removed from the UK, but you will never be able to come back.
‘It is bad enough that illegal migrants currently abuse our asylum system to frustrate their removal.
‘But it is far worse that they can currently settle here permanently and apply to become a citizen.
‘The ability to settle in this country and become a British citizen is not a human right, it is a privilege – which is why we will ban illegal migrants from ever coming back to the UK after we have removed them.’
Mr Sunak, who has made ‘stopping the boats’ one of his five key pledges to voters, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Illegal migration is not fair on British taxpayers, it is not fair on those who come here legally and it is not right that criminal gangs should be allowed to continue their immoral trade.
‘I am determined to deliver on my promise to stop the boats. So make no mistake, if you come here illegally, you will not be able to stay.’
The issue is likely to become a key battleground at the next election, expected at the end of next year. Labour has chosen not to make the small-boats issue one of its five ‘missions’ for the election.
Current rules state that illegal entrants can be handed a ‘re-entry ban’ of two or five years, depending on the circumstances – and foreign offenders can be barred for ten years and upwards. But the measures being announced tomorrow will significantly extend the restriction, making it impossible to enter Britain again, even as a visitor.
The moves are expected to have a particular impact on Channel migrants from safe countries – such as Albania – who will think twice about making an illegal crossing if it means never being allowed back.
New laws will also restrict Channel migrants from using human rights laws to avoid removal from Britain, it is understood.
The Bill is likely to severely limit the way claims under Labour’s Human Rights Act can be used by asylum seekers who arrive by irregular routes. In addition, it will widen the Home Office’s ability to insist that any legal appeals must be lodged from abroad rather than from Britain, it is thought.
The Bill will be published ahead of a key summit between the Prime Minister and French president Emmanuel Macron on Friday.
It is understood Mr Sunak will seek a ‘substantial’ increase in beach patrols to stop migrants from leaving French shores.
Nearly 46,000 migrants crossed the Channel by small boat last year, a huge rise on the 28,500 seen in 2021.
Ministers have been warned that up to 80,000 migrants could make the dangerous journey this year.
Human rights campaigners claim the inadmissibility measures and other aspects of the new Bill are a breach of refugee conventions.
The legislation is also expected to tighten modern slavery laws which are being exploited by migrants to delay removal. The PM has vowed to raise the threshold for claims so that ‘objective evidence’ of exploitation is required, rather than mere ‘suspicion’.
Figures published last week showed modern slavery claims reached a record high last year, boosted by an 80 per cent surge in the number of Albanians claiming under the scheme.
As part of his action plan, the PM has also vowed to clear 92,000 cases from the asylum backlog – currently standing at 166,000 – by the end of this year.
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